Alumni Post: Unique and Profitable Opportunities

I love science. Whether I’m riding my bike, sweating through a Detroit Lion’s third quarter or enjoying a Detroit Lion’s fourth quarter, I’m probably thinking about science. I’m the type of person that can enjoy watching paint dry because I’d argue it was never wet, to begin with. I can enjoy talking about the nature of tape because it manages to be sticky despite the fact that there is no “sticky force” found in any physics textbook I’ve ever read. What do these anecdotes tell you about me? I like to observe the world not only for its beautiful phenomena but also for the circumstances under which its phenomena are enabled.

With this in mind, I’ve been reflecting on the good fortune that’s come my way over the last few months in the form of graduate school admissions decisions. I’ve been wondering what the circumstances must have been that enabled my current path forward. It can’t be that I had a good GPA because GPA alone does not a valuable scientist make. It can’t be that I’ve worked hard because hard work alone does not ensure that the energy was spent in the proper direction. It’s not that my parents told me I could achieve my dreams and thus enabled my actions toward doing so because support alone is not enough. It can’t be that I’m just smart because I’ve just told you that I’d argue about whether or not paint can be wet.

However, it seems to be some combination of these things that enabled my dreams to become my real future. While I don’t currently have a curve or an equation that describes the circumstances under which somebody can experience positive admissions decisions, I can rest assured that every opportunity in the world was available to me at GVSU. This hasn’t always been my perspective, but as I’ve traveled to numerous institutions and met with faculty and students, I’ve realized how fortunate I was to have GVSU’s resources at my fingertips while the other applicants did not. Not every applicant had mentors who cared as deeply about the wellbeing of their students as they cared about the progress of their students’ projects. Not every applicant had the hands-on experience that is offered at primarily undergraduate institutions. Not every applicant had professors who were so invested in their students that they offered review sessions on Easter Sunday. Not every applicant was able to live in the building where they’d later meet their professors for office hours. Not every applicant was able to be a resident assistant for 2 years, to work in multiple labs, to speak at national conferences, and to experience life as the business head of a startup.

In only three and a half years, GVSU Honors offered me all of these experiences and many, many more.

Anyway, I’ve only recently appreciated the unique and profitable circumstances that exist in Allendale, MI. I was fortunate to attend GVSU, enroll in Honors and benefit from a program whose circumstances (people, support, environment, etc.) enable incredible possibilities for its members. I can only hope that I might have contributed to that environment in some way.

Usually, when I picture somebody staring through a window, I hope that they wonder to themselves why the window is transparent while the wall is opaque. However, I hope that you, while staring through your window and admiring this fine spring day, wonder to yourself what the circumstances must have been to enable your future. Similarly, I hope that you take advantage of the opportunity to contribute to the circumstances that will enable somebody else’s future as well.

 

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Joel Francis is a recent alumnus of Grand Valley State University (’16), where he studied Cell & Molecular Biology and Chemistry. During his time at GVSU, he worked in multiple labs and served as a Resident Assistant in the Honors College. He was born and raised in metro Detroit before moving to Grand Rapids. Joel is an avid Detroit Tigers fan, a cautious Detroit Lions fan, and also enjoys woodworking in his spare time. He will enroll at Stanford University in the Fall to begin working on his Ph.D. in Cell & Molecular Biology.

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Student Post: It’s Never Too Early

Grand Valley promotes studying abroad tremendously. There are fairs, thousands of pamphlets, presentations in most classes, and tons of students in Kirkhof desperately trying to get your attention.  When I first arrived at Grand Valley, I had the preconceived notion that studying abroad was only something I could do as an upperclassman. Those amazing trips were just for seniors, for people who had their lives (and senior projects) figured out, for people who were ready to leave their families and friends for three months. However, at the beginning of winter semester in my freshman year, I began to think about what I was going to do with my summer. I didn’t enjoy being home like most first-year students, and I needed to do something to better myself—but I was a freshman. The semester before, I had taken a Live.Learn.Lead class in FMHC that focused on owning your education. I reflected on this class and realized that the number of credit hours I had did not affect how mature I was, or how well I could understand life in another country. While I had this empowering feeling, I applied to the Honors Service Learning trip in Ghana, Africa. I still hadn’t completely convinced myself that I could travel across the world and live in a third world country for the summer, but what harm could be done by applying?

I didn’t even tell my family when the acceptance emails arrived, and I went to the first meeting still unsure of how I felt about the trip. However, after hearing the excitement from the other accepted students and listening to heartwarming stories from the professor, I knew it was exactly what I needed. I would have the opportunity to volunteer in hospitals, clinics, and schools, to understand life from a completely different viewpoint, and to make forever friends who would experience every moment with me—which is exactly what I did.

I left for Ghana on June 9th, ready to spend the next seven weeks learning all that I could and soaking up every part of the most exciting journey I’d ever been on. We stayed with a Ghanaian family in a hostel, which quickly became home. On the second day of volunteering in the hospitals, I had already seen more than I ever could while shadowing a doctor in the United States. With every minute, I was further understanding the meaning of ‘third world country’ and developing a deeper gratitude for the life I was given.

After returning, I was at a loss for words to explain what I had learned and how I felt. I had the time of my life. I was completely humbled by the happiness and love I found in each person I met, as well as the beaches, landscapes, and animals I saw. This wasn’t, and still isn’t, something that can be put into words. It is something that MUST be experienced.

Reflecting on the day I applied to go to Ghana, I can’t believe that I ever thought I had to be an upperclassman to study abroad. In my opinion, going as a freshman benefitted me more than if I had been a senior. For starters, I didn’t have any plans for the summer after my freshman year. I didn’t have an internship or an amazing job at a hospital or a school, and none of my friends were getting married or having babies. I wasn’t missing anything. Furthermore, this experience will help me, not only with applying to medical school but with the rest of my college career. Being able to see the ins and outs of medical care up close solidified that the degree I am working toward is exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life. Also, having experience abroad shadowing doctors and working in hospitals and clinics gives me a better chance to do the same things here. I now have a better understanding of the world and of life, which I can use in each of my other classes. I can relate almost anything to my experience in Ghana. Finally, studying abroad my freshman year gave me the courage to take control of my education and ensure that I am getting exactly what I want out of my college experience—and it gave me time to study abroad again.

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Lauren Robb is a sophomore in the Frederik Meijer Honors College at GVSU, majoring in Biomedical Sciences with a minor in Applied Statistics. She enjoys playing intramural sports, being outside, and hanging out with friends. Lauren loves learning about medicine and health care through her job as a scribe as well as her volunteer work. Her one piece of advice for all GVSU students is to study abroad at least once, no matter how long it’s for!

Skip the Advising and do it the Hard Way: 5 Reasons Not to See Your Advisor

Advising is a hassle and no one likes it. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t bother meeting with an advisor:

  1. Meg and Kelly, the new Honors Advisors are really boring people and some would consider them downright mean. They are closed-minded, unsympathetic, and not even helpful. They won’t help you brainstorm, share their experiences, or offer support if you’re going through a difficult time.
  2. Meg and Kelly have never been abroad, especially not to places like El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, England, Thailand, Ghana, or Costa Rica. They will certainly not encourage you to travel either—forget helping you or referring you to places where you could get funding to travel. They don’t care about any of that!
  3. Why get a thumbs up before graduation? How about you show up to commencement and risk your name not being called because you missed something. It’s worth risking another semester at GVSU just to save a few minutes now!
  4. Meg and Kelly are not at all connected across campus. If you are interested in research, job opportunities, and more, they won’t know where to send you. Plus, that’s not their job!
  5. Meg and Kelly are notoriously unavailable. They don’t respond to emails, don’t have openings on their calendars, and never hold open advising sessions. They twiddle their thumbs, come in late and leave early, and basically spend their time on Facebook and Instagram, keeping their office doors closed and avoiding contact with students.

Actually…..In case you couldn’t tell, Meg and Kelly have a good sense of humor and are both excited about being advisors within the Honors College. Combined, they have spent over 20 years working in the fields of higher education, non-profit, international development, k-12 education, and community engagement.  They will both be teaching a section of Live.Learn.Lead in the fall semester and they look forward to meeting you.  Stop by the office or call to schedule an appointment or pop in for open advising sessions that are publicized in the weekly FMHC announcements.

5 Reasons to Join FMHC

So why should you join FMHC?

If you’re a current or prospective student at Grand Valley State University, you may be wondering what opportunities there are for you to succeed. The Frederik Meijer Honors College is one that you should definitely consider! Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. Develop Skills: Students will develop their abilities in the classroom allowing them to gain more than just information. When you hone your skills as a critical thinker, creative problem-solver, and polished writer, you can take on any challenge with confidence.
  2. Connect with Opportunities: Frederik Meijer Honors College faculty members will also put their experience and knowledge to work for you. That may mean helping you identify opportunities, such as scholarships, internships, and research; fielding questions about careers in our disciplines; writing substantive letters of reference that can make a difference, or even contacting a colleague at another university on your behalf.
  3. Improve your Writing Skills: One goal of the Frederik Meijer Honors College is to enhance students’ writing abilities. Throughout the Meijer Honors College, professors challenge the students to improve and enhance their writing skills, which are becoming increasingly important in today’s business world and in many professions.
  4. Set Yourself Apart: Graduate program admissions committees and employers look for people who set high standards for themselves and excel; those who prefer the less traveled but more challenging route.
  5. Join a Community: The Frederik Meijer Honors College also includes an integrated living and learning environment promoting intellectual curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning that will live on well beyond our students’ undergraduate years. The Glenn A. Niemeyer Learning and Living Center offers students the opportunity to take classes in the same building in which they live.

The Frederik Meijer Honors College is a resource to help students identify opportunities, make informed and reflective decisions about career goals, and to prepare students inside and outside the classroom to be competitive for the best jobs, graduate programs, professional programs, and fellowships.

Visit our website for more information about how to apply!